June 30, 1923

PENSION COMMISSIONERS

LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Hon. H. S. BELAND (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment):

I beg to lay on the table of the House the annual report of the Board of Pension Commissioners for Canada for the year ending March 31, 1923. The report for the previous year was laid on the table of the House at an earlier date this session.

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REDISTRIBUTION

LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Hon. H. S. BELAND (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment):

Mr Speaker, I beg to move that the report of the Special Committee appointed to consider Bill No. 15, an act to readjust the representation in the House of Commons be now concurred in.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Leadei of the Opposition):

I have not had time tc read the report in extenso. I have only beer informed as to its contents, and if my inform ation is correct it merely is a report-

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Perhaps, for the information of the right hon. gentleman and the House, the Acting Minister of National Defence (Mr. Macdonald), who laid the report on the table of the House on Thursday might give a brief explanation. I simply throw out the suggestion.

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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald (Minister of National Defence; Minister Without Portfolio)

Liberal

Hon. E. M. MACDONALD (Acting Minister of National Defence):

Mr. Speaker, I

had the honour of being selected as chairman of the committee to which was referred Bill No. 15 to provide for a redistribution of seats in this House. I may say that the history of redistribution measures in this country has varied in later years from the practice in a previous period in our history. In days gone by the bill was prepared by the government }f the day and presented to the House, and without reference to any committee it went through its various stages just like any other bill. It was treated as a government measure and the redistribution was described as a ''gerrymander" of the seats on the part of the government.

In 1903 the procedure of dealing with the question of the redistribution of seats was entirely changed. The government of the day introduced a bill drafted for the distribution of seats generally, but with a schedule, to be filled in describing the various seats, their boundaries and names, this being left to a committee of the House to

Redistribution

settle by agreement. I think the committee in 1903 was made up of five members of the House, and the method by which the schedules were settled upon was by discussion, negotiation and agreement among the members of the committee. The bill was thus more a matter of production by parliament as a whole than by the government of the day. In 1914, when the next redistribution took place, a similar procedure was adopted. A bill providing in general terms for the redistribution was introduced into the House by the government, the schedule to be filled in. This was referred to a committee of nine representing all parts of the country and the parties in the House at that time. I had the honour of being a member of that committee, and well remember the procedure which was adopted. Sub-committees were appointed from the general committees made up of groups of two representing the Maritime Prowinces, Quebec, Ontario, the western provinces and British Columbia. Each of these groups of two met together, and by discussion, friendly overtures and negotiation settled the boundaries of the various constituencies, discussed and determined the various units of population both urban and rural, and by this method agreed upon a measure which was presented to the House and adopted practically unanimously.

When the present bill was introduced this year by the government and referred to a committee of nineteen I foresaw immediately, with my previous experience, the difficulties that were going to arise in dealing with this question by arrangement and negotiation. Following the best methods, and in an endeavour to arrive at a consistent conclusion, the large committee was divided into subcommittees each composed of three members representing the several groups in the House. There was an exception in the case of the sub-committee on the representation of the province of Ontario. That sub-committee had a membership of six. In the several subcommittees the endeavour to arrive at an agreement met with some success. In the case of the province of British Columbia I think the points of difference narrowed down to a very small question. So also-although that was only ascertained at a very late date - in the case of the prairie provinces, with the exception of the province of Manitoba where there was a very sharp and marked difference of opinion amongst the representative of the several groups as to how the matter could be adjusted. In the case of the Maritime provinces the claim was made on

behalf of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that a minimum representation should be fixed in each of these provinces. The Attorney General of the Province of Nova Scotia and the representative of the Attorney General of New Brunswick appeared before the committee and advanced these claims and gave reasons why this proposal should be carried out. In the case of Ontario my colleague and friend from South Renfrew (Mr. Low) was chairman of the sub-committee. I may say that it did not appear that very much progress was being made with that sub-committee and this might be attributed to various reasons. In any event the representatives of the regular opposition, and our Progressive friends, claimed that the government should prepare and submit plans in detail for the redistribution of that province. There were a great number of adjustments necessary to be made in the case of Ontario but the government did not feel that it was their duty, in any one of these cases, to prepare an arbitrary or settled plan of division; that was left for each representative of each group to submit and to endeavour to arrive at a conclusion by negotiation. Ultimately, however, a plan was prepared by the hon. member for South Renfrew, and several meetings and continued discussion took place. I am not aware of what went on at those meetings, but as the provincial elections in Ontario drew nearer there were absences at various times from the sub-committee and the possibility of an agreement being arrived at seemed to grow "smaller by degrees and beautifully less " as the time went on. Then conditions arose, it seemed to me also as a result of the elections in Ontario, on account of which it seemed reasonable to suppose, having regard to the changes that had taken place, that the representatives of the several parties would not be able for a considerable time to arrive at an exact idea of what ought to be done.

Finally it was apparent that we were approaching the close of the proceedings of the House and that prorogation was at hand. The committee met as a whole and discussed the question veiy carefully and in a calm and deliberate manner. It was found at this time that two of the members from British Columbia, whose presence was really essential in order that we might get matters adjusted- the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. McQuarrie) and the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Stork)-had returned to their homes, thus reducing the membership of the committee to seventeen. Now the question arose as to whether, in view of the near approach

Redistribution

of the end of the session it would be prudent to ask the House to prolong its sittings for the purpose of awaiting the results of the deliberations of the committee, which committee to my mind, speaking in the light of experience, had very little hope of arriving at an agreement; or whether we should report to the House and suggest that consideration of the bill should be deferred until next year. The result was that the committee decided that we should report to the House asking that the bill be deferred until next year.

I am aware that the suggestion has been made that deferring the bill until next year means some substantial danger or difficulty particularly to the western provinces where the representation is to be increased. For the information of the House, however, may I call attention to the experience in regard to the passage of redistribution bills in 1903 and in 1914 respectively. In the case of the former bill, the census which had been taken in 1901 was completed in 1902 and came up for consideration before the parliament which met in 1903. The bill providing for redistribution was not passed, however, until October 24, 1903, which is considerably later than is the present time. In the succeeding decennial period, the census was taken in 1911, and completed in 1912 but the matter was not dealt with by parliament until 1914. In other words, by a parallel illustration, if we were dealing with redistribution as in other years it would not be undertaken until the meeting of parliament next year. The bill of 1914 was introduced on February 10; it was referred 'to the committee, the final report by that committee was made on June 10, and the measure received its third reading on June 12. Thus it was that there was no redistribution in the last decade until a period a year later than the present period in this decade. Having regard to all the circumstances, it seems to me, and it appeared to. the committee representing the various parties, that no injury or harm could arise by reason of the postponement of the measure for a year.

A fear was expressed that a general election might occur before the end of the year, and that parties entitled under redistribution to increased representation might suffer. There is no such possibility, to my mind, as a matter of law. Anyone who will read carefully the provisions of section 51 of the British North America Act will come to that conclusion, I think.

We have heard discussions about redistribution. Reference was made to promises alleged to have been made in 1920 and 1921, 'that there would be a redistribution before [DOT]an election. Let it be understood clearly

and positively that there is no way by which any redistribution can take place until the full and complete returns of the census have been made to the government. Hon. members will recall that in the session last year the Minister of Trade and Commerce told us, in the last days of the session, that full returns were not in at that time. But the suggestion that there might have been a distribution in 1921, or at any [DOT]time anterior to the full completion of the census, could not possibly be carried into effect. Because section 51 of the British North America Act says:

On the completion of the census in the year 1871 and of each subsequent decennial census, the representation of the four provinces shall be readjusted by such authority, in such a manner and from such time as the parliament of Canada from time to time provides, subject and according to the following rules:

So that it is very clear that the census must be completed before the right of redistribution arises; and before it is possible to carry out the mandate of that section. Then there is a subsection which says:

Such readjustment shall not take effect until the termination of the then existing parliament.

Which means that any redistribution or readjustment of population made after the Completion of the decennial census shall not come into effect until the next general election. I have no doubt-speaking with whatever experience I may have had in my profession and expressing a view in which I am Supported by others with whom I have discussed the point-that if by any possibility the government of the day were defeated, or if they desired to have an election, it would be the bounden duty of His Excellency the Governor General to refuse the dissolution if any government asked for it after the completion of the census and before redistribution. It would be the duty, I submit, of His Excellency to say to any one who came asking for dissolution, that parliament must proceed to readjust and redistribute before a general election could take place. That is the position of affairs, apart from any other consideration. After full deliberation, I say that there need be no difficulty or no doubt in any quarter whatever as to the fact that no election can take place in this country, under the constitution, until after completion of census without redistribution first being completed.

That being the case, Mr. Speaker, we hare reached a stage of the session where the public business is completed and the time for prorogation has arrived. I think that the report of this committee recommending to

Redistribution

the House that this matter be deferred until next session is one which should meet with the approval of the House. Ten years ago redistribution was not dealt with until the session of 1914-not touched in any way. We have followed the same practice this session, and the session which will meet in the winter of 1924 will have to deal with the question. In the light of past experience in these matters, if the present motion is carried and report adopted, the question will come up to be dealt with next year. This is a matter quite as much for the House as for the government, following the practice and procedure adopted by the government, 20 years ago, 10 years ago and to-day of leaving the consideration of parliament as a whole the question as to what the redistribution shall be. It will be the duty of the House to seriously consider the composition and formation of the committee which shall deal with this question, if we are going to work out a bill along the lines of those adopted in the previous years.

In my opinion, the committee this year was too large to deal with the question along the lines on which it was considered, and it will be a matter for consideration as to how best to continue the system followed in the two last redistribution years, when Parliament, in the desire to do that which was right and proper and to give full consideration to the parties interested, got together and formulated a bill which was agreeable to all as far as possible. A great deal of information has been gained, and this data is in the possession of the secretary of the committee, and it will be open to all parties between now and next session to consider the situation. They can then come to parliament next winter with their data prepared, and their lines laid down, and they will be in a much better position to deal with the matter than was the committee which held meetings during this session. This session no party had any data or any map, and no one was prepared to deal with the matter in an effectual manner. All this can be obviated and these things put in proper shape, and any committee, no matter how it is constituted, will be able to deal with the whole matter in an effectual and satisfactory way.

It has not been the desire of the government in dealing with the question to impose any views on the committee. The whole question was left to parliament to deal with, unfettered by any political lines, and imbued solely with the view that we should make a redistribution of seats under the constitution which would be eminently fair to everyone. There were great difficulties met with in

Ontario which cannot be minimized. There was a tremendous shifting of the population in the last decade. The population in some districts had increased in number while in others it had decreased. How to readjust the boundaries of the constituencies so that there might be fair representation for the rural and urban districts, without any discrimination against either, was a problem that was probably the most difficult that had to be faced by the representative of any of the provinces of the Dominion. The problem in Quebec was not so difficult although there was a sharp contrast and conflict of opinion in regard to one matter in that province. So also in Manitoba, difficulty was experienced. These things require study, thought and attention. It was a matter of great difficulty to proceed to redistribute the province of Ontario in a manner fair to all parties concerned without very great preliminary consideration, and attention to the claims which naturally attached to those who lived in the rural districts; that they should have a lower unit of population than those living in the city. There was the question of continuity of interest which existed among people who had lived in the same municipality for a great many years, there was the consideration that it is well not to disturb county boundaries, if you can possibly avoid it, because that was one of the rules laid down by all who had to do with redistribution in the past. These matters require careful study and thought, I believe, in the interim between the present session and the next session of parliament. If thought and study are given to the subject, no time need be lost in bringing forth next session a measure that will be satisfactory. Indeed, the time will be well spent by representatives of the different parties, knowing where the conflicting interests lie and the difficulties that were met with and will be met with. When we meet together again next year, we shall be able to solve the problem in a manner that, I think, it would not be possible to achieve without greatly prolonging the session. Supposing, with all the business before this parliament substantially disposed of, the suggestion were made that we should continue to sit awaiting the report of this committee, we would be sitting, in my judgment, for over a month, with the House having practically nothing to do in the nature of business, waiting for the termination of the squabbles, uncertainties and difficulties of the committee in dealing with a matter requiring so much thought and care as this does. Therefore, having regard to the fact that no general election can come on without this parliament proceeding to redistribute, to the fact that

Redistribution

the problem is one which requires care and attention, and to the further fact that a delay will result eventually, I believe, in producing a bill which will be in the interest of the country as a whole, I submit this motion is one which should be adopted by the House.

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PRO

John Frederick Johnston

Progressive

Mr. J. FRED JOHNSTON (Last Mountain) :

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the

committee, I wish to say a few words in connection with the report and the remarks which the minister (Mr. Macdonald, Pictou) has just made. I was glad to note that the minister said that it was decided on division in the committee that the matter be deferred at this time. In looking at the report as it is to be found in the Votes and Proceedings of the 28th day of June, I find that it is stated in the third paragraph:

They therefore have agreed.

There is no mention of a division in that committee on the report as brought down to this House. The chairman of the committee, the minister who has just spoken, and all members of the committee know very well that the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Speakman) and myself did dissent from that motion.

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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald (Minister of National Defence; Minister Without Portfolio)

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD (Pictou):

That is

quite right.

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PRO

John Frederick Johnston

Progressive

Mr. JOHNSTON:

My reasons for so doing can be briefly stated. Every one knows that redistribution is due. As regards the prairie section of Canada, we are entitled to eleven more seats, and that is a big consideration. While the chairman has made the matter very easy for all members of the committee in his statement that certain work had been undertaken and something accomplished, I cannot share his view that anything like the amount of work that could have been accomplished was undertaken by members of that committee. In saying that,

I want to be fair to all, and unfair to none. But members on the government side put in charge of the sub-committees were men with too much to do. Consequently, the sub-committees were never, or very seldom, called together, with the result that we never got down to the point of attacking the problem as it should be and will have to be attacked.

It is all very well to say that we have reached that stage in the session when every one is looking for prorogation. That is true, and no other hon. member is more anxious to get through and to return to his home than I am-I have been here for five months now- but as I said at the outset, redistribution is due. The electors of my province are en-

titled to five more seats in this House, and they are going to hold me and every other member from that province accountable for the fact that redistribution is not put through at this session. The minister says that there is no likelihood of an election. I do not know as to that; but I hope if this motion is concurred in and redistribution is put off, the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) will see fit to say to this House and to the country that, in so far as the government can say there shall be no election during the interval, or before another session is held and a redistribution bill is put through. But even with that I do not feel that I would be doing what my electors have a right to expect me to do, if I concurred in the report. There is a time for everything, and the time to redistribute the country is the present. I believe if the members of that committee got down to actual work, it would not take very long to put the bill through. I am not going to move in a formal way that this motion be nol concurred in. I do not think that such a motion would get much support. I think 1 know the temper of the House, and I know that the majority of members with the exception of those of us in this comer who come from western Canada, are anxious to get away and would not support such a motion. But I do want to put myself on record as being opposed to concurrence in the report, and to say that redistribution should be completed at once.

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CON

Donald Sutherland

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DONALD SUTHERLAND (South Oxford) :

Mr. Speaker, as I happen to be a member of this committee, and in view of the remarks made by the chairman of the committee and the hon. member for Last Mountain (Mr. Johnston), I feel that I could not very well allow the motion to pass without offering a few observations. I was a little surprised at the remarks of the chairman of the committee in endeavouring to make it appear that a good deal of the delay was caused by the attitude of the sub-committee for the province of Ontario. I must take exception to anything of that kind. The committee was appointed over four months ago. I think I can fairly state that no very serious attempt was made, for a long time after the appointment of the committees, to arrive at any understanding as to how redistribution should be brought about. I appreciate the difficulties of redistribution where the unit of .representation is increasing by about 500 every decennial period, and some of the constituencies are decreasing in number, while other are increasing, so that a general redistribution will be necessary. It is somewhat

Redistribution

significant, that from the time that the committee was appointed, at practically every meeting of the committee, some reports were being given to the press as to how the proceedings were being conducted. The inference was left that certain members of the committee were responsible for the delay. This applied on several occasions, and I did not think, when the report, which was adopted at the last meeting of the committee and which is now before the House, would be discussed in the House, it would be necessary to refer to this matter in the way I find it necessary to do.

The sub-committee for Ontario were appointed and sent off to bring about a redistribution for that province. But the main committee did not come to any definite understanding as to how redistribution was to be brought about. Efforts were made to get the committee together on several occasions with a view to coming to some decision, and the sub-committeees were instructed to begin work. They did this, but, one province not having any relation to another, hon. members will realize how unfair and unworkable such a system must be. The minister suggests that the committee was too large and he thinks that possibly when parliament reassembles it may be advisable to reduce it in size. Personally I have no particular desire to be on the committee if I am not wanted, but I do think that some satisfactory arrangement ought to be made. The minister made the further statement that prior to the redistribution based upon the census of 1901 the constituencies had been more or less gerrymandered.

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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald (Minister of National Defence; Minister Without Portfolio)

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD (Pictou):

I did not suggest that this was the issue; I merely meant that the matter had been spoken of.

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CON

Donald Sutherland

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SUTHERLAND:

We finally succeeded in getting before the committee a proposition which, while I will not describe it by the word "absurd," undoubtedly was absolutely unworkable, as anyone might have expected. I do not think that very much progress has been made by the commitee. It is true that the Attorneys General of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, were heard with reference to the question of having a fixed representation for these provinces; but outside of that, very little work has been done and I think it is hardly fair for the Chairman to impute blame to any of the other hon. members of the committee. During the four months that parliament has been in session the sub-committees were called together several times, but on no occasion was anything attempted, and if the chairman of the committee had been as anxious

to see redistribution materialize this session as his words would lead one to suppose, I think a considerable degree, of progress might have been made. In view of the fact that we were almost unanimous I do not see that the near approach of the end of the session need have made it impossible to bring about redistribution after the last meeting, which was called on the 27th or 28th of this month. Nor can I see that the elections in Ontario had any material bearing on the situation. These, at any rate, are my views on the subject.

I had thought that the chairman would give an outline of what was discussed at the last meeting of the committee and that the matter would end there, rather than that the House should be left with the impression that the sub-committee for the province of Ontario was really the stumbling-block in the matter.

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UFA

Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. ALFRED SPEARMAN (Red Deer):

I do not intend to say very much, and certainly I have no desire to reflect on any members of the committee. I believe that we were all somewhat slack, some hon. members more than others, by reason of pressure of work and the onerous nature of other duties to which they were compelled to attend. I simply wish to associate myself on this occasion with the hon. member for Last Mountain (Mr. Johnston), in the House as I did in the committee, representing as we do very directly those parts of Canada that would be most deleteriously affected in the event of an election being held before the realization of redistribution. I believe we were right in our contention, not that there was any great danger of an election, but because we should have been untrue to our trust, having had the interests of these provinces committed into our hands, had we not at least most vigorously protested against even the possibility of such an event occurring. The main reason for my rising just now, however, is to suggest that the report be slightly amended in order that it might conform more closely to the facts. Instead of stating, as the report does, that the committee "therefore have agreed" I would suggest that it state "therefore have agreed, on division."

Mr. JOSEPH T. SHAW (Calgary West): As a westerner I cannot help expressing my regret that, despite the apparently very strenuous labours of the committee over a period of four months, their efforts have so far been fruitless. The position of the committee was not such as would ensure of necessity that any redistribution measure would have been presented to the House; nor yet does the

Redistribution

fact that the sessions of the committee are held in secret assist in any way to bring about a conclusion. Personally I had very grave fear of the effect of these secret sessions, although I understood that it had been the practice for two preceding redistribution committees to hold their meetings in that way. I do not think that this is desirable. There would be a greater urgency to action if the meetings were held in public. I have no knowledge at the present time as to what the boundaries of Alberta were; I have no means of getting information unless from a secret source, and I am not prepared to secure it in such a manner. The fact that these sessions are held in secret necessarily increases the tendency towards political log-rolling. It is undesirable that the meetings of the committee should be held privately; they should be held in public so that anyone who desires to attend them may do so. However, I do not want merely to join in a futile dissent; I want to make a suggestion to the House which, not necessarily at the present time, but at some time in the future, may be of value. We have in this country a chief electoral officer whose duty it is to look after the conduct of elections. In connection with redistribution there are only two or three general principles which need consideration and determination. There is, of course, the matter of determining the census and the unit of population. Then there is the necessity for determining the difference between the unit for urban and the unit for rural representation. Of course a certain discretion must be exercised in order to preserve the existing county boundaries; that is to say, a discretion either to increase or to decrease, as necessity may require, the population unit so to preserve the homogeneity of the constituency. I suggest that the House agree, in public session here, upon these fundamental principles, and having determined them relegate the whole matter to an officer such as the chief electoral officer for determination. It would be a comparatively easy matter for him to undertake that work if he had the principles determined for him by parliament, which could be done in public. There is no necessity for political log-rolling, and it would be in the public interest that some such action should be taken.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

In reference to the remark made by my hon. friend from Last Mountain (Mr. Johnston) I would point out that, as already expressed by one or two members of the committee, the power of dissolution rests with His Excellency the

Gevernor General and it would be impossible therefore for anyone to say how or when His Excellency might see fit to exercise that power. So far as the government is concerned I do not hesitate to say that I would, if consulted in the matter, advise His Excellency not to permit a dissolution of this parliament without first having enacted a redistribution measure. The government has no intention of bringing on a general election without a fair redistribution measure being enacted in the first instance.

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Motion agreed to.


RIGHT HON. W. S. FIELDING CONGRATULATIONS ON HIS BEING CALLED TO THE IMPERIAL PRIVY COUNCIL

CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. T. L. CHURCH (North Toronto):

I hope, Mr. Speaker, before the House closes the leaders of the three parties will express their appreciation of the honour conferred on the Right Hon. Minister of Finance in having been called to the Imperial Privy Council. No one is more worthy of it, and no one is held in deeper respect for the very courteous and fair way he has on all occasions facilitated the despatch of public business.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I was informed, only a few seconds before the hon. member (Mr. Church) rose, of the happy fact to which he has. referred. May I say, it comes as no surprise to me. Indeed, I have long felt that the delay in his being thus honoured must have been attributable more to his own reluctance than to any failure on the part of the authorities overseas to tender to him th:.s honour.

Personally, and speaking for all those who serve with me in this House, I say that the honour is not only due but overdue. Long years of public service, both provincially and federally-a record of service which in point of time and of eminence of station has rarely, if ever, been equalled in the history of our Dominion-abundantly place him within the circle of those who are honoured by admission to His Majesty's Privy Council. I congratulate the Minister of Finance earnestly and sincerely.

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PRO

Robert Forke

Progressive

Mr. ROBERT FORKE (Brandon):

Mr. Speaker, may I be permitted personally, and also on behalf of the group in this part of the House, to join in the congratulations to the Minister of Finance on his being made a member of the Imperial Privy Council. His has been a name to conjure with in this

Congratulations-Right Hon. Mr. Fielding

Dominion for many years. He has a place secure in the history of our country, and not only now but in all the years to come the name of the Right Honourable William Stevens Fielding will be honoured. I have very much pleasure in extending my congratulations to him on this occasion.

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June 30, 1923